This week’s episode of American Horror Story explored themes of immortality and rebirth.
The episode begins when Misty Day (Lily Rabe), previously seen burned alive, returns from the dead and takes a couple of alligator hunters to tasks on the banks of the swamp by bringing their kill back to life. We cut to the Robicheaux School where the girls meet for the morning and we get a little backstory on Queenie. (Hopefully we’ll soon get a last name and everything.) Queenie descends from Tituba, a mixed race witch of Caribbean descent and one of the first to be accused of witchcraft in Salem. This becomes important later.
During the meeting, a couple of cops come sniffing about what exactly happened at the frat party in the last episode. The cops seem to suspect that Madison and Zoe had something to do with the bus crash and also the death of the frat boy in the hospital. Zoe quickly falls to pieces and reveals everything about what happened at the frat party and that they are all witches. Cordelia tries, ineffectually, to claim that Zoe has some mental health issues, but Fiona comes in and uses her magic, brutally in one instance, to fix the situation. The cops won’t be bothering them again anytime. Fiona then reams Madison for her sloppiness with the bus crash and Zoe for her lack of spine. She tells the girls that the only thing they have to fear in the world is her.
Later, after many protestations from Zoe that Kyle did not take part in Madison’s assault and Madison thanking Zoe for taking care of the dude in the hospital, Madison decides she’s going to help Zoe find true love. They break into the morgue, stitch the best parts of the remains of the boys together (with Kyle’s head), and use dark magic to resurrect him. Unfortunately, Kyle comes back all kinds of messed up, and Misty pops up to help take care of him in her cabin deep in the swamp. Misty is overjoyed to learn that there are other witches out there (aside from, in her opinion, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac. You…have to see it).
Cordelia and her husband, Hank (Josh Hamilton), also mess with some dark magic, against Cordelia’s better judgment. They’re trying to conceive and have some wild sex complete with candles and snakes and blood. Did it work?
Meanwhile, we learn from Madame LaLaurie herself what happened to her. A group of Black folk, lead by Marie Laveau, hanged LaLaurie’s family before shoving the woman herself into a box to live in the ground for all eternity without the release of death, but with the overwhelming guilt and pain of the death of her daughters. Fiona figures on using LaLaurie as a bargaining ship to get Marie to share her secret of eternal youth, for Marie still walks this earth and runs a hair salon in New Orleans. Marie ain’t here for it, and they share some heated words before Fiona lights the place up and leaves with a snide remark. She later finds that LaLaurie escaped only to sit dejected in front of her old home, still unapologetic about her crimes. Fiona is now the one who isn’t here for it, and makes sure LaLaurie knows who’s in charge before they head back to the school.
I enjoyed this episode far more than last week’s episode, but it was not without its problems. I’m still recovering from the heaps of sexual and racial violence in the last episode; violence I still believe was largely gratuitous and exploitative in nature, respectively. I’m still not digging that, as of now, Zoe’s power is the power to kill through sexual intercourse. And, I’m still not pleased that Queenie still needs a last name and that Nan and Queenie don’t get the same extended subplots and screen time as Madison and Zoe.
I’m also not entirely sure if we’re supposed to find Zoe’s having created FrakenKyle romantic in some way? Certainly Ryan Murphy calls the subplot a “hopeful” one, even as he discusses some of the problems. I’ll admit that I laughed the entire way through that. My reaction was that of someone long past my teenage years thinking, “Goofy teenagers doing goofy things.” Instead of smoking joints in the basement, they’re creating monsters in the morgue.
What I really loved the face off between Marie and Fiona; Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange killed it yet again. Although it was a little ham-fisted (hey white writers), they explicitly discussed some of the racial dynamics and history at play as they discussed Tituba being made a slave by Fiona’s ancestors then being the first accused of witchcraft only to have much of her knowledge of magic appropriated by white witches. I also liked that, ostensibly, Fiona is in a position of power as a wealthy white woman and Marie not so much as a Black service workers. But, in terms of magic, I believe Marie is just as powerful, if not more than, Fiona.
The same acknowledgement of race and racism, this time in television, happened for a moment when Queenie discussed not knowing that Black people could even be witches because all of the representations she’d seen of witches where white women (representation matters, people!). I am really hoping Queenie will discover that she is of the same tribe as Marie Laveau and we’ll see how that affects her relationships with the other girls at the school.
Murphy recently did an interview with Entertainment Weekly recently that reveals some of his motivations this season. I’m very much over the “mythological creatures as metaphorical oppressed peoples” bit and especially when it comes from someone like Ryan Murphy, who walks the earth with a lot of advantages. I would love for him to put his money where his mouth is with regards to that and issues of representation and feature more women and people of color as writers and directors. I’m hoping this season marks a shift where we’ll see more and more people of color as main characters. Make it happen, Murphy!